It's no secret that it's been hot in Sarasota lately. Temperatures are rising into the upper 90s by midday, causing us to seek shade and the sweet, sweet bliss of air conditioning. And as the cliché goes, it's not just the heat—it's the humidity, which can cause temperatures above 90 to feel like 100 degrees or more.
Heat can, of course, put a damper on outdoor adventures, but, more importantly, what does it do to our health?
The primary risk is heat illness. Every year, more than 600 people die from excessive heat. Heat exhaustion can make you feel faint, nauseated and confused, while heat stroke—a more severe form of heat illness—is characterized by an altered mental state (even slurred speech or seizures), a lack of sweat (skin may feel hot and dry to the touch), flushed skin, vomiting and a rapid heart rate. If you continue to feel any of these symptoms up to two hours after heat exposure, seek medical care. Prolonged heat stroke can damage your brain, heart and kidneys if left untreated.
Athletes and outdoor workers are most at risk for heat illness, but there are ways to be active outdoors while staying healthy and safe. Rachel Reddish, a fitness expert from EōS Fitness (which has a location in Sarasota) offers some tips for exercising outdoors in the heat:
Limit outdoor exercise to 30 minutes at a time.
Even if you're a seasoned athlete, you should not exercise in temperatures that feel higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Reddish recommends limiting outdoor time to about 30 minutes, whether that includes a run, hike or circuit training. Then, finish off the workout indoors.
"Get the necessities done outside and then supplement in the air conditioning—at the gym or at home with weights, circuit training or stretching," says Reddish. "You should never go longer than an hour in the heat."
Find exercise spots in the shade.
Reddish recommends finding hiking trails in the shade or doing push-ups and sit-ups under a shady tree. Avoid outdoor exercise in the middle of the day, when the sun is at its peak. Try early morning runs or late night walks, when the sun is less strong.
"Stay away from black pavement and run on the grass when you can," says Reddish.
Even if you aren't exercising, take breaks from direct sunlight every 30 minutes by seeking shade, bringing an umbrella or heading inside.
Switch up your exercise routine to include restorative practice.
Summer is when Reddish focuses on recovery and restorative-based exercises. Consider workouts that focus on stability, flexibility and mobility. When it's hot outside, don't be hero by trying to lift heavy weights or run miles and miles.
"Take advantage of low-impact exercise at this time—walking, stretching and yoga, things that are considered active rest," says Reddish. "Implement one to two rest days, and keep stretching to reduce soreness, increase blood flow and reduce swelling as a result of heat."
"Summer is a good time to return to basics and hit reset," she says. "You're not building your summer body, it's already here. Now's the time to recover."
Consider aqua exercise.
Swimming and water aerobics are great resistance exercises that provide cardiovascular training while keeping you cool. EōS offers aqua classes that are easy on your joints but still build muscle.
"Your cells start dying at 126 degrees Fahrenheit, and when we're overheated, we're sitting at 110-115 degrees," says Reddish. "Water is going to lower that body temperature, allowing you to build muscle cells instead."
Hydrate with branch chain amino acids.
Reddish suggests adding a flavored powder with branch chain amino acids to your water. They contain essential nutrients like leucine, isoleucine and valine—all proteins that stimulate the building of muscle and reduce muscle breakdown. She says the powders often contain electrolytes, too, which help replenish nutrients lost through sweat.
"The minute you start sweating is the minute you're already dehydrated," says Reddish. "Make sure you are drinking water before you even head outside."
Space out hydration.
"Sweating cools you down so much that it can be hard to tell when you need a water break," says Reddish. "Set a timer on your phone or fitness watch if you need. Aim for four to 16 ounces of water every 20-30 minutes."
Reddish also recommends purchasing water bottles with marks on the side so you can track your consumption throughout the day.
Pay attention to your body.
"Take breaks often," says Reddish. "Use this as an opportunity to really listen to your body."
You cannot control the elements outside, but you can take steps to stay healthy and safe. Check for heat advisories before going out, wear sunscreen and protective clothing and, if in doubt, stay indoors.
EōS Fitness is located at 4940 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information, click here or call (941) 867-1917.